The shadowy hacktivist group Anonymous has once again gone viral on the Internet for first accusing GOP strategist Karl Rove of planning to use his ORCA election tracking system to hack the vote in Ohio, and then claiming they prevented him from doing so by erecting a firewall to block vote laundering through affiliated servers. Most of the mainstream media have ignored these stories entirely, and even the netroots and blogosphere have understandably reacted with skepticism. After all, Anonymous has no evidence, and even the reason given for this lack of proof — collecting the data would have required letting Rove steal Ohio — comes across as a little too pat. As comedian Dana Carvey’s Church Lady character would say, “how conVEEENient.”
You can watch Anonymous’ October 22nd video — which ominously warns, “Karl Rove. American Crossroads. We are Anonymous. We are watching you. We know that you will attempt to rig the election of Mitt Romney to your favor. We will watch as your merry band of conspirators try to achieve this overthrow of the United States government.” — below:
After election day, Anonymous followed up with a press release announcing that they had hacked into Rove’s lurching ORCA fail whale behemoth of a computer system to block Rove’s vote tampering scheme in Ohio, but DC blogger Wonkette snarks:
“If Anonymous hacked ORCA and caused it to explode miserably on Election Day, how could Anonymous ever prove that ORCA was actually a vote-thieving program? If they hacked in, couldn’t they have planted code to make it look like Rove was gonna fraud the election?”
(Though she then swiftly adds, “Not that we believe for a second that Rove wasn’t trying to fraud the election.”)
Yet some writers — including this one — believe Anonymous’ claims are within the realm of possibility, and imbued with a ringing sense of “truthiness” that we just “feel in our gut.” In his “Anonymous Saved The Election?” piece, my fellow AI editor Nathaniel Downes — who’s also a computer whiz and knowledgeable about Anonymous’ various exploits — displays Anonymous’ letter, translates it from Geek to plain English, and ventures that the details seem too specific and authentic for someone to just make up. Anonymous asserts that they saved Ohio from election fraud by plugging secret tunnels in ORCA — the GOP’s voter tracking system — through which electronic votes could be transferred; that staff made 105 jailbreak attempts; and also claims to have ORCA codes and data which they plan to release on Wikileaks (dudez, what’s the holdup?).
Bondibox from Daily Kos writes, “The skeptics among us might be quick to dismiss this story, but I say not so fast. We do know that Anonymous exists, and they have been adept at penetrating servers … And frankly they have proven themselves to be less bullshit prone than our politicians and broadcast media outlets.” A long article from Democratic Underground sardonically inquires, “Hmmm … Why Was Karl Rove So Adamant that Romney Not Concede Ohio?” and then segues into the messy aftermath, investigation, and possible murder following the 2004 election — which many believe should have resulted in challenger John Kerry (D-MA) unseating GOP incumbent President George W. Bush. Protect Our Elections, a watchdog group, also ran an article which indicates that Anonymous’ claim sounds plausible, given the pattern of ORCA’s well-documented system crashes during Election Day.
The GOP’s overconfidence about Mitt Romney’s chances of winning struck many of us while following the election returns. I mean, we all know that facts have liberal bias, but Rove’s and Romney’s refusal to believe Obama could possibly win seemed WAY over-the-top. First Rove had his now-famous meltdown on Fox News, when he (and the Romney campaign) adamantly challenged their calling the election for Barack Obama (et tu, Faux News?). Foxy News personality Megyn Kelly even committed journalism as she marched through cramped labyrinthine hallways to verify Obama’s win with the quants at Fox News’ decision desk.
You can watch the video here:
An eeeeeee-ville plot to steal the election sounds somewhat plausible, when considering the following:
- Rove’s and Romney’s blind overconfidence (Romney even spent beaucoup bucks for a post-victory fireworks display over Boston Harbor, according to Glen Johnson’s article in The Boston Globe;
- Irregularities in the Romney campaign, including his failed vote challenger effort, and a teenaged girl getting caught on video for selectively registering voters (the disreputable firm that hired her was fired for fraud).
- Ongoing GOP voter suppression efforts too numerous to list (though my fellow AI editor Justin Acuff wrote a more general piece on how difficult it is to vote these days).
- GOP leadership rigging their primaries in favor of Romney through widespread election fraud.
- Existing widespread suspicion that Rove and other Republicans would suppress and steal votes, as explained by Investigative Journalist Greg Palast in Billionaires and Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps. After all, where there’s smoke, there’s often fire.
- Rove’s failure to legally register his Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies (GPS) PAC, which reveals his utter contempt for rule of law.
What Happened in 2004?
And now, let’s return to the article from Democratic Underground, which reacts suspiciously to Rove’s Fox meltdown, then reminds us of how Kerry was widely expected to wrest the presidency from Bush II in 2004 with a “whopping 4.2%” win in Ohio — as confirmed by exit poll data. Suddenly, around 11:00 p.m., Ohio’s electronic voting system crashed. When it rebooted, the vote tallies were suddenly reversed in Bush’s favor. In August 2006, an alliance of Ohio-based grassroots groups filed a federal court case against Ohio’s then Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell for violating their civil rights and depriving them of their right to vote. The case, known as King Lincoln Bronzeville vs. Blackwell trudged onward for over five years until it was dismissed in February 2012 for lack of evidence. However, his years spent on the case may have influenced U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley’s vehement decree against Ohio’s current Secretary of State Jon Husted’s last-minute voter suppression efforts this year.
According to Wikipedia, the plaintiffs accused Blackwell of:
“Election fraud, vote dilution, vote suppression, recount fraud and other violations,” that he “arranged for the use of tens of thousands of ballots in high-performance Democratic precincts that were prepunches for a third-party presidential candidate so as to create an overvote and disqualification of such a vote when cast for Kerry,” and that he participated in these in an “ongoing conspiracy.”
In the summer of 2011, the plaintiffs filed an additional document alleged to be:
a contract between Secy. of State Ken Blackwell and Republican computer consultant Michael Connell, specifying a computer architecture that would allow the [Bush II] White House to have access to Ohio vote counts in real time as they were reported on election night, including the ability to modify those numbers remotely.
The computer architecture sounds similar to the one Anonymous accuses Rove of building for Election 2012, with some fixes since this time, the opposition (Obama) occupies the White House. So … did the plaintiffs lose the case because it lacked merit, or because they filed their complaint against the wrong person?
On October 26th 2008, Stephen Spoonamore — a computer expert and professional colleague of Rove’s IT guru, Michael Connell — wrote in his four-page sworn affidavit:
“During the evening and early morning on the 2004 General Election in Ohio, on my own computer I was watching the results of incoming counties and precincts. I believed there was a more than likely chance County Tabulators had been programmed to manipulate votes.”
Spoonamore further explained that the abrupt increase in Bush votes and decrease in Kerry votes followed a data pattern which “resembled a fraud technique called an Intelligent Man In the Middle, or KingPin Attack,” adding that the design of Rove’s and Connell’s SmartTech computer system was ideal for KingPin attacks.
Craig Unger’s best-selling Boss Rove, Inside Karl Rove’s Secret Kingdom of Power confirms Spoonamore’s testimony:
“The Ohio vote was counted in Ohio, at 11:13 p.m. at night, the entire Ohio voting system crashed. A minute later they came up. In that minute, all the votes had been re-routed through a server system in Tennessee, and so all the vote totals flowed back into the system in Ohio, and John Kerry lost, even though the exit polls showed him winning.”
As does Steven F. Freeman’s report for the University of Pennsylvania Center for Organizational Dynamics, The Unexplained Exit Poll Discrepancy:
“Most Americans … sat down to watch the evening television coverage thinking John Kerry won the election. Exit polls showed him ahead in nearly every battleground state, in many cases by sizable margins … But then, in key state after key state, counts showed very different numbers than the polls predicted; and the differentials were all in the same direction.”
But Wait, It (Maybe) Gets Even UGLIER …
On October 31st 2008, Judge Marbley ordered Connell to file a deposition concerning his knowledge of the GOP’s computer system and possible vote tampering, and then summoned him to testify in court. Connell’s court appearance was scheduled for late December, but it never took place. On December 19th he unexpectedly died in a suspicious plane crash when the experienced pilot’s plane ran out of gas and crashed into a house in Akron, OH. According to John Byrne’s 2008 article in Raw Story, a friend of Connell’s had warned him not to fly his plane due to possible sabotage, and Connell had already cancelled two flights because he believed his plane had been tampered with. Connell had also reportedly requested protection from the court.
“He has flown his private plane for years without incident. I know he was going to DC last night, but I don’t know why. He apparently ran out of gas, something I find hard to believe. I am not saying that this was a hit nor am I resigned to this being simply an accident either … Mr. Connell has confided that he was being threatened, something that his attorneys also told the judge in the Ohio election fraud case.”
In November 2009, almost a year later, CantonRep.com’s Edd Pritchard followed up with the results of the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation, which concluded that Connell had flown off course, and that no”anomalous” mechanical malfunctions were found in the plane. Connell’s death, along with alleged voter fraud, and Anonymous’ role in blocking it may simply go down in history as one of life’s many unsolved mysteries.
As Bush II’s Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld once so aptly stated,
There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know.
There are known unknowns; that is to say there are things that, we now know we don’t know.
But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don’t know.